By R Nanda
Prior to the pandemic, many companies had increased their focus on workplace mental health. Those efforts are even more imperative today. For the first time in human history the whole world has felt the impact of a pandemic, with employees of no sector or industry left unscathed. Employers everywhere have had to adapt to the fallout of the pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the humane side of the employers and an opportunity to connect with their employees beyond work to make them feel safe and secure. What areas will employers have to majorly invest in, in the post-pandemic era to ease the employees’ tussle with physical and mental wellbeing?
Ensuring holistic wellbeing
With the employees being forced to work from home in an unfamiliar work environment that lacks the infrastructure and the right ambience, has had an unsettling impact on most of them. Many of the employers adopted ‘Model Healthy Behaviours’.
Managers have become aware of the mental health of their team members. Firms have revealed their softer side.
By March-end and early April last year, a study by a non-profit organisation Mind Share Partners among employees across the world held in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP, found mental health of nearly 42% of respondents having declined since the outbreak. One year down the line, the figure would have increased.
Early on in the pandemic
The fallout of the uncertainties over jobs and the impact from the pandemic on businesses has generated anxiety. Along with the economic fallout of the pandemic, answers to questions over what will come next are still up in the air. This is taking a toll on the mental health of employees.
With the number of Covid-19 cases ebbing and flowing, debates on reopening economies and businesses have raged across the world and many countries have been seeing violent protests.
Prior to the breaking out of the pandemic, many corporate entities had been doubling down on workplace mental health
. Those efforts seem imperative today. Many employers even supplied all the basic needs of employees while regularly checking up on them so they did not have to go out and potentially expose themselves to the pathogens.
India Inc’s experience
A study by Cognizant’s ‘Center for the Future of Work’ which surveyed 4,000 senior executives (1,200 from the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, including 160 in India) across 23 countries and 14 industries was very revealing. It sought to gain insights into how organizations worldwide are gearing up to deal with the disruptions caused by the pandemic and why Asia seemed to be taking it head-on.
It showed Indian companies as showing greater resilience. As opposed to a regional average of 44%, only 36% of Indian companies acknowledged even slightly negative impact on their business in 2020, with Indian companies coming across as more resilient through the pandemic, the study indicated.
They have been the most bullish on adopting technologies to challenges from the pandemic. There was an inclination among the employers, in general, to offer flexibility and be inclusive. This has been visible across industries.
Face similar situations
The pandemic year we are traversing through is the first pandemic with a hyper-awareness of the threats from a virus. Epidemiologists will study the past five months for decades; historians even longer.
With each passing day, we are gaining knowledge of the Covid-19 and what works against it. Seeing the trail of destruction the virus is leaving in its wake, as the third coronavirus to become an epidemic this century, with two animal influenza and several waves of Ebola, we are gaining lessons on the kinds of societies required to fend off the future outbreaks that are inevitable.
As we adapt to the new order of remote working, leaders need to demonstrate even greater levels of Emotional Intelligence (EI) to mitigate stressors like depression, anxiety, uncertainty among their teams. Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Empathy and Mindfulness are key elements of EI that will help leaders in getting the best out of their teams.
As HR folks, we should lay equal emphasis on both the hard and soft aspects of how leaders engage with their teams as well as how they personally react when under stress. Do they have the tendency to rush into judgements at times? Do they lose their ability to empathize, stay calm and be in control? These are important qualities that need to be consciously practiced.
Even in situations where managers may not be able to offer a ready solution for their team’s problems, those managers with better EI are sure to leave their teams feeling more hopeful, energetic and optimistic.
All employers have realised the need to communicate more than they think they need to.
2021 will be the year of transition. Barring any unexpected catastrophes, individuals, businesses, and society can start to look forward to shaping their futures rather than just grinding through the present. The next normal is going to be different. It will not mean going back to the conditions that prevailed in 2019. Several of the steps taken by the employers will have the potential to leave its impact on industrial relations for many years to come.
The author is the
CHRO at Tata Chemicals Limited.